As an experienced A Level practitioner with an academic research profile, Dr Matt Hall was invited to speak at Leeds Social Sciences Institute, on the experience of teaching Social Sciences at A Level and the current challenges faced in the sixth form college sector. Matt says that he was more than pleased to accept this invitation as it afforded an opportunity to engage with the challenges facing his academic discipline(s).
Matt explains that: “Social Science subjects are increasingly under threat from declining funding as well as being under-valued as never before. However, the challenges facing communities on a local, national and global level necessitate an engagement with the Social Sciences if we are to develop appropriate, workable and lasting solutions to the issues we face. The ESRC Festival of Social Sciences was held by the University of Leeds with the aim of responding to this dichotomy. It sought to explore the current challenges and opportunities confronting the Social Sciences, as well as considering the vital contribution made by such subjects, in the past, present and future.”
From the broader context he discussed the hostility of the current Post 16 funding environment and the challenges posed by the new specifications since 2015. He also addressed the negative perceptions & attitudes towards Social Sciences at A Level which also present significant challenges for the teaching and learning of social science subjects. From Matt’s main academic discipline, Political Science, he considered the impact of the unprecedented levels of political volatility, uncertainty and distrust we are currently witnessing. He also discussed issues arising from the Internet, fake news & the ‘end of truth’, alongside whether young people in the UK are politically apathetic as is often thought or rather, alienated from political system.
In 1966, Robert Kennedy famously said: ‘may we live in interesting times’; we certainly are doing that and in such an environment, the Social Sciences have a vital part to play. As Professor David Cannadine has noted: ‘The skills developed by studying Humanities and Social Science subjects at A Level and at university will be essential as we negotiate the challenges the UK faces, from AI to an ageing society and sustainable development. We will need people with insights from law, philosophy, politics and history, as well as Britain’s outstanding stem sector’. I believe we need to defend the Social Sciences, celebrate the contribution they make to society and develop their profile and importance in these most interesting of times. As a contributor from the University of Sheffield suggested, we need to be ‘much louder’ in explaining what the Social Sciences do and above all, why they matter.